Fort Lauderdale developer pleads no contest to theft charge

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Paula McMahon

Published March 21, 2011


Fort Lauderdale developer Glenn Wright pleaded no contest Thursday to stealing $20,000 from a city homeowners association.

Wright, 57, of Fort Lauderdale, was immediately sentenced to three years of probation, 75 hours of community service and must pay about $4,000 to reimburse law enforcement for some of the cost of the investigation, his attorney Norman Malinski said. If Wright completes his sentence without any problems, he will have no felony conviction under the agreement he reached with Broward prosecutors.

Wright pleaded no contest to one count of grand theft, which could have carried a penalty of up to 15 years in prison though he faced much less punishment because he had no prior criminal record.

"It was in his best interest to resolve the case because he has significant other matters that he's dealing with," Malinski said. He declined to say what those are.

Wright did not contest the charge that he took money from the La Preserve Home Owners Association and lent it to Rabbi Schneur Kaplan, who prosecutors said did nothing wrong and did not know about the source of the cash. Kaplan had gotten to know the developer in 2003 when Wright began attending religious ceremonies and sought spiritual guidance, court records show.

Kaplan told prosecutors in a sworn statement that when he was buying a new property for his Downtown Jewish Center in 2006, he was short of money for the closing so he asked Wright for a loan, which the rabbi later repaid to Wright. The closing was handled by the now defunct Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm led by Scott Rothstein, who was later convicted of running a massive Ponzi scheme. Rothstein was also a member and big donor to the spiritual center.

Prosecutor Spencer Multack declined to comment Thursday.

The inquiry into Wright's activities, which began when some of his customers contacted prosecutors to complain about him, eventually led investigators to charge former Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Cindi Hutchinson in a related case. 

Hutchinson denies charges that she accepted $14,000 worth of work on her residence by Wright's former business partner, Steve Goldstrom, in exchange for her favorable votes for the La Preserve and Georgian Oaks developments. Goldstrom pleaded not guilty to a related perjury charge. Wright was not charged in connection with that case and had no knowledge of the work done for Hutchinson, Malinski said.

Wright has long been a controversial figure in the city because some resident groups objected to his style of development, which they said involved building large homes on small lots that many homeowners felt were inconsistent with the character of their neighborhoods.